Freshwater Monster of Loch Ness, Scotland.
Etymology: From the Gaelic an Niseag, a feminine diminutive derived from the name of the loch. It probably originated with the 1933 sightings. The term Loch Ness monster may first have been used by Evan Barron, editor of the Inverness Courier, in a May 2, 1933, story.
Scientific name: Nessiteras rhombopteryx, given by Peter Scott and Robert Rines in 1975 and based on the underwater photographs of 1972 and 1975. The name means "the Ness wonder with the diamond-shaped fin."
Variant names: Bobby, Lady of the lake, Loch Ness monster, an Niseag.
Physical description: The most common descriptions mention a large, rounded object like an overturned boat; several humps in a line; or a long neck and a hump. Overall length, 10-45 feet. The color is gray, dark gray, or black; occasionally, a sandy or light color is reported. Skin is mottled and rough like an elephant's. Under-parts are sometimes described as white. Small, flat head that blends into the neck. Two hornlike protrusions on the top of the head. Oval eyes. Neck, 4-8 feet long. Usually one to three humps, sometimes up to eight. Sightings on land suggest the creature has four short, thick flippers. Tail, 5-6 feet long with a rounded end.
Behavior: Sightings of two or more animals at the same time are rare. Usually swims smoothly with no undulations but at other times with a zigzag motion. Often moves against wind currents or travels just below the surface of the water, creating a V-shaped wake. Sometimes lashes the water energetically. Can sink perpendicularly. Most active in the daytime. Occasionally seen on land, where it moves awkwardly. Presumably eats fishes.
Distribution: Loch Ness, Highland, Scotland, the largest freshwater lake in Great Britain. Investigations are hampered by the fact that the water is darkened by suspended peat particles brought in by many brooks. Visibility is reduced to only a few tens of feet, even with the aid of powerful underwater strobe lights.
Significant sightings: The Irish missionary St. Columba is said to have been the first to see Nessie, in about A.D. 580 when he exorcised a
WATER horse near the mouth of the River Ness.
D. MacKenzie of Balhain was standing on a rock off Abriachan in October 1871 or 1872 when he saw an object like an overturned boat churning water and moving across the loch from Aldourie.
Margaret Cameron and three siblings saw a 20-foot monster move from the trees into the water at Inchnacardoch Bay in 1919. It had two short, round feet and moved like a caterpillar.
Alfred Cruickshank was driving along the loch in his Model-T Ford in April 1923 when he saw a large, humped body standing about 6 feet high roughly 50 yards ahead of him. It had four legs as thick as an elephant's and large webbed feet. The animal barked sharply before it slipped into the water.
One of the earliest modern sightings took place in March 1933 when John Mackay and his wife saw a commotion in the water at the northern tip of the loch. A large, black body with two humps seemed to be swimming with a forward rolling motion.
George F. T. Spicer and his wife saw Nessie cross the road in front of them as they were driving between Dores and Foyers on the afternoon of July 22, 1933. It had a long neck about 6-8 feet long and a high back, with a total length of about 25 feet.
Br. Richard Horan of St. Benedict's Abbey, Fort Augustus, watched a head and neck moving about slowly for five minutes on May 26, 1934. Apparently disturbed by a rowboat, the creature submerged and moved off to the northeast, leaving a wake.
Sir Edward Mountain launched the first organized surveillance of the loch for five weeks in July and August 1934. Twenty unemployed men stood watch five days a week and generated eleven sightings and several photographs, most of which depicted boat wakes or wave effects.
As many as fifty people watched an animal with a small head, long neck, and two black humps for thirteen minutes near Urquhart Castle on October 28, 1936. A local man, Duncan MacMillan, saw it first, but passengers in two tour buses and several other cars soon stopped to look.
On April 4, 1947, J. W. McKillop, chief administrative officer of the Inverness County Council, was driving with three other men near Drumnadrochit when they saw a large head and neck creating a wake in the water. The sighting was independently confirmed by another party of motorists who saw a long, dark form moving slowly in the loch.
Greta Finlay and her son Harry saw a humped animal rise out of the water 60 feet away at Aldourie Point on August 20, 1952. The head had two 6-inch-long projections on its end and rose about 2 feet out of the water.
Christine Fraser was one of a busload of tourists who saw a 25-foot animal with three humps near Strone on October 8, 1957. The middle hump was moving back and forth with incredible speed.
On August 25, 1962, writer F. W. "Ted" Holiday saw a blackish-gray creature, 40—45 feet long, moving to and fro near the mouth of the River Foyers.
In 1967, biochemist Roy Mackal became convinced of Nessie's reality after an 8-foot back surfaced next to the boat in which he was servicing investigative hydrophones. On one side, he saw the tip of a left pectoral flipper.
In October 1969, Dan Scott Taylor Jr. piloted a personally built, 2-ton, yellow minisub, the Viperfish, on several dives to the bottom of the loch. On one occasion, he was bumped by a solid object that took off at 16 knots, faster than the sub could go.
In September 1970, in the boat Fussy Hen, Roy Mackal, Robert Love, and Jeff Blonder saw
a black object rise up in Urquhart Bay, apparently the back and flipper of a large animal.
On June 23, 1971, Robert H. Rines and his wife, Carol, watched a 20-foot-long hump moving in Urquhart Bay.
The most recent sighting on land occurred on July 8, 1979, near Foyers. Donald MacKinnon saw a gray animal about 24 feet long emerge from the woods, walk down to the loch, and slide into the water. He clearly saw four feet with three digits each.
On July 21, 1987, Barbara Grant and Mary Appleby saw a reddish-brown, pillarlike object sticking out of the loch north of the Abriachan turnoff. Grant stopped the car and looked again, but this time, the women saw a dark object moving at considerable speed.
Edna Maclnnes and David Mackay saw a dark-brown animal with a giraffelike head and neck swimming around for about ten minutes on June 17, 1993.
For a few minutes on April 24, 1999, Dave Turner and a friend watched, from the Inver-farigaig nature trail, an underwater object with four limbs that moved slowly and jerkily.
Photography: Hugh Gray took the first photo of Nessie, near Foyers on November 12, 1933. It shows a large body causing a disturbance in the water. Gray could not see the head, which was apparently under water.
Malcolm Irvine allegedly made the first film of Nessie, on December 12, 1933, but his camera jammed, and he only obtained a few seconds of footage. Unfortunately, that footage cannot now be located.
The "surgeon's photo" was supposedly taken by gynecologist Lt. Col. R. Kenneth Wilson on April 1, 1934. It was long thought genuine, but in the 1990s, there were claims it was faked by Christian Spurling and Marmaduke A. Wetherell using a toy, self-propelled, tin submarine with a wooden head and neck attached to the conning tower. Though the hoax story has been questioned, the photo itself has little evidential value. A second photo taken shortly afterward seems to have been shot at another angle under different surface conditions. The Project Urquhart investigation in 1993 enhanced the image and discovered a separate object that seems to be pulling a fake monster behind it.
In Urquhart Bay on September 15, 1934, James Fraser took some footage of Nessie with a 16-millimeter movie camera fitted with a tele-photo lens. The film was shown at the annual meeting of the Linnean Society of London, where it was variously identified as a seal, a whale, and an otter. Maurice Burton examined five stills from this now lost film, one of which he thought showed an anomalous object about 12 feet long and roughly 150 yards from the shore.
Malcolm Irvine took a second film of an animal in the loch opposite Urquhart Castle on September 22, 1936. The 1-minute sequence showed a gray, 16-foot animal with two humps moving swiftly across the water. It was shown in cinemas throughout Britain as newsreel footage, under the title The Loch Ness Monster: Proof at Last! Long thought to be lost, the film was rediscovered in 2001 in the Scottish Screen Archive.
G. E. Taylor shot the first color film of Nessie, opposite Foyers on May 29, 1938. The animal's neck dipped up and down, and a roundish body showed about 1 foot above the water. The three minutes of footage were examined by scientists at the National Institute of Oceanography (now the Southampton Oceano-graphic Centre), who concluded that the object was a dead horse or cow bobbing in the water. Roy Mackal thinks it was a live animal feeding on fish.
On July 14, 1951, a Forestry Commission worker named Lachlan Stuart snapped a photo of Nessie at Whitefield. It clearly shows three humps and was rushed into print the next day by the Sunday Express (Inverness). In the late 1980s, author Richard Frere revealed that Stuart had admitted to him at the time that the image actually shows three partially submerged bales of hay covered with tarpaulins.
On July 29, 1955, bank manager Peter A. McNab took two photographs of an elongated animal off Urquhart Castle. Only one has survived. Some believe it shows a standing wave from a boat wake.
Aeronautical engineer Tim Dinsdale filmed a zigzagging, mahogany-colored object in Foyers Bay on April 23, 1960, using a Bolex camera. As a comparison, he afterward filmed a boat moving in the same direction. In 1966, the film was examined by the Royal Air Force Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (JARIC), which confirmed that the sequence showed an "animate object" 12-16 feet long. The Project Urquhart investigation enhanced the film in 1993 and discovered a shadow behind and beneath the head; a closer examination seemed to show a body shape similar to that of a ple-siosaur. However, some researchers are convinced the footage shows a fishing boat.
Early on the morning of May 27, 1960, Peter O'Connor snapped a photo of Nessie while he was camped near Foyers. The photo shows something shaped like an overturned boat, with a short, cylindrical neck. A few weeks later, Maurice Burton found some plastic sacks and string at the site, leading him to believe the photo was a hoax.
From 1962 to 1972, the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau (LNPIB)—founded by David James, Constance Whyte, Richard Fitter, and Sir Peter Scott and overseen by Tim Dinsdale—monitored long-range surveillance cameras at strategic points along the loch; several lengths of footage were taken, but the monitoring effort was largely unsuccessful. On June 6, 1963, three separate films were shot by LNPIB watchers; the first apparently shows a water disturbance caused by ducks, but the others are more difficult to explain. One features a dark, cylindical object, and the other shows a dome-shaped object traveling swiftly through the water.
On June 13, 1967, Dick Raynor took a short sequence of 35-millimeter, black-and-white film showing a V-shaped wake moving out of Dores Bay. The movement ceased when the passenger boat Scott II passed within the frame. JARIC also analyzed this film and detected a 7-foot object breaking the surface. However, Raynor now thinks the picture shows a flock of birds.
On August 8, 1972, underwater footage was taken in Urquhart Bay near Temple Pier by a team headed by Robert H. Rines from the Academy of Applied Science of Belmont, Massachusetts. The film, taken from an underwater camera suspended from Rines's boat, the Nan, corresponds to a Raytheon sonar tracking (deployed on another boat, the Narwhal) of a large object that seemed to be chasing fishes. Two frames show a roughly triangular (rhomboid) flipper or fin against a rough body, while a third shows two blobs. The flipper images became clearly visible only after digital enhancement, resulting in criticisms that the photos were retouched. However, the presence of dense peat particles in the water occludes significant detail and requires enhancement. Researcher Adrian Shine thinks the image is a close-up view of a normal fish. Using a wide variety of photographic techniques, Nicholas Witchell's 1993 Project Urquhart investigation was unable to recreate the exact flipper image from the unen-hanced photo.
On June 20, 1975, Robert Rines obtained two more subsurface photographs southeast of Temple Pier, one showing a "gargoyle" head with apparent horns and the other revealing the head, neck, and body of a plesiosaur-like animal. Many experts dispute that the photos show Nessie. G. E. Harwood concluded in 1977 that both images show debris and silt on the loch bottom. Adrian Shine thinks the full-body shot might actually show shifting silt patterns and the gargoyle head could be a tree stump that scuba diver Dick Raynor photographed and dredged up in October 1987 during Operation Deepscan.
The head-and-neck color photographs taken by Irish busker and surrealist Tony "Doc" Shiels from Urquhart Castle on May 21, 1977, are probably double exposures or superimpositions. A surprisingly similar photo was taken in September 1983 south of Achnahannet by an anonymous woman.
On August 22, 1977, Gwen and Peter Smith watched a 6-foot, periscope-like head and neck rise from the water near Urquhart Castle. As it submerged again, Gwen took some film footage from about 175 yards away with an 8-millimeter zoom camera. The film shows the neck surfacing three more times, and at one point, it appears to move its head from side to side.
On August 11, 1996, Austin Hepburn took a photo of a solid black object moving up the loch toward Dores and creating a wake.
The first Internet sighting of Nessie took place in Texas on June 5, 1999, when Nora and Mike Jones spotted, on a Webcam hosted by the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre in Drumnadrochit, a head and neck surfacing in the loch near Urquhart Castle.
Sonar evidence: The Rival III, a fishing vessel passing close to Urquhart Castle, recorded the first echo-sounder trace of an unknown target in Loch Ness on December 2, 1954. It was swimming at a depth of 480 feet.
On August 28, 1968, digital, multibeam sonar equipment monitored by D. Gordon Tucker and based at Temple Pier picked up two large targets, one rising from the loch floor at about 100 feet per minute and another moving horizontally and then diving at 450 feet per minute. The high rate of speed makes it unlikely that the targets were schools of fishes.
In the summer of 1969, northeast of Urquhart Castle, a searchlight-sonar target 600 feet away was picked up about 50 feet from the bottom of the loch by the Vickers Oceanics research submarine Pisces, commanded by R. W. Eastlaugh. As the sub closed in, the object moved away and was lost.
On October 10, 1969, Robert E. Love Jr., on the motorboat Rangitea, picked up an unambiguous target with searchlight sonar moving in a looped path at a depth of 220 feet for more than three minutes northeast of Foyers. He was using a Honeywell Scanar II-F sonar mounted on the prow.
On August 8, 1972, Robert Rines's team on the Narwhal picked up with a Raytheon echo sounder two targets that seemed to correspond with an object photographed at the same time (the flipper photo). The targets were about 8 feet apart; one was interpreted as a large object with an appendage approximately 9 feet long. Stueart Campbell believes that the target actually represents signals and delayed echos from the other boat (the Nan) carrying the underwater camera.
On June 30 and July 1, 1976, Robert Rines and Charles Wyckoff of Klein Associates recorded large, moving objects on an EG&G Mark 1B side-scan sonar mounted at Temple Pier.
In the summer of 1978, Theo Brown suspended underwater loudspeakers from a small inflatable boat southwest of Foyers and played infrasonic recordings that attract marine predators. At one point, sonar on the boat picked up a 30- to 50-foot animal moving up from very deep water. It moved away when a large motor-boat passed.
On July 21, 1978, Tom Cummings and Garry Kozak of Klein Associates obtained a side-scan sonar image of a moving object leaving a turbulence wake.
From May to August 1982, Adrian Shine obtained forty sonar contacts, including strong single targets, using three kinds of sonar apparatus suspended from field boats.
In October 1987, a flotilla of nineteen motor cruisers equipped with echo-sounding sonar swept 60 percent of the loch in Operation Deepscan, organized by Adrian Shine. Two large, indeterminate objects were tracked moving together close to the surface. During the operation, a submerged tree was discovered, which Shine thinks was the gargoyle head photographed in 1975.
In sonar tests conducted during Nicholas Witch ell's Project Urquhart expedition, Colin Bean monitored an underwater storm on the night of July 19, 1993, caused by atmospheric conditions at the surface. The next day, he discovered two large, underwater targets in the disturbance that were definitely not shoals of fishes.
Robert Rines and Charles Wyckoff returned to the loch in the summer of 1997 for a scientific documentary sponsored by the Nova television series. Although the producers had intended to debunk Nessie, the two large sonar contacts obtained during the expedition convinced them otherwise.
Sonic surveys in 2000 found that a series of unidentifiable sounds in the loch were matched in frequency (747—751 hertz) only by sounds generated by the Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), Elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris), and Killer whale (Orcinus orca). The sounds were like a pig grunting or a human snoring.
During a normal tour cruise on July 1, 2001, the skipper of the M.V. Nessie Hunter noticed an unusual target on the Furuno sonar display. The image was photographed and depicts an elongated, sinuous object with two dorsal protuberances.
(1) A boat wake explains some observations of a series of humps. A wake persists for twenty to thirty minutes after the boat that created it has passed. A standing wave (an interference effect created when two waves intersect) seen from a distance or from an odd angle can be mistaken for black humps. A distant motorboat can also be misidentified as a moving animal.
(2) The Gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) can grow to 7 feet 6 inches in Canadian waters, though specimens in the eastern Atlantic are smaller. The largest rookeries are found in Britain in the Hebrides, Orkneys, and Shetland Islands. Sir Edward Mountain advocated a seal explanation in 1934. Seals definitely enter the loch from time to time. Gordon Williamson photographed the smaller Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) in Loch Ness in 1985, and Dick Raynor obtained the first photographic record of a gray seal in a videotape taken in Urquhart Bay in October 1999.
(3) A swimming Red deer (Cervus elaphus) is said by Stueart Campbell to account for the 1952 Greta Finlay sighting. In July and August, a male deer in its second year carries a velvet-covered pair of short antlers that can look like Nessie horns.
(4) Domestic cattle (Bos taurus) sometimes wade up to their bellies in the water and browse from overhanging tree branches.
(5) Ducks or geese swimming or flying in tight formation close to the surface might appear from a distance to be a moving, humped animal. Possible candidates for line-of-humps or head-and-neck sightings are the Red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), Common merganser (Mergus merganser), Little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Arctic loon (Gavia arctica), Canada goose (Branta canadensis), or Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).
(6) The Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) in Britain can grow up to 9 feet long. However, the dorsal scutes of this rare fish are distinctive and do not match Nessie descriptions.
(7) A giant eel, 18 feet long, is said at one time to have gotten stuck in an intake at Foyers hydroelectric station on the loch, but this has not been substantiated. European eels (Anguilla anguilla) only grow to 5 feet long, while the European conger (Conger conger) only grows to 10 feet.
(8) Mirages. Objects such as logs or birds can appear elongated or seem to move sinuously under certain atmospheric conditions, especially haze.
(9) Floating trees or logs upended in the water and moving about under a strong current may resemble Nessie.
(10) Adrian Shine and others have suggested that thermoclines, or layers of contrasting underwater temperatures, can generate waves that cause inanimate objects such as logs to appear to sink, rise, or drift in an unusual way.
(11) Vegetation mats may form on the bottom of the loch, then rise and move rapidly on the surface under the pressure of gas generated by bacteria. This explanation has been put forward by Maurice Burton, who wrote that logs or branches in the mat could account for head-and-neck reports.
(12) A surviving plesiosaur, a member of a group of marine reptiles that swam with paddlelike limbs. Some, but not all, species had long necks, and body length varied from 6 to 46 feet. The eyes tended to point upward, and the necks had limited vertical movement, making the head-and-neck posture unlikely. The Loch Ness animal would have to be endothermic to survive the Scottish climate. Plesiosaurs swam either like sea lions, using a downward and backward stroke, or like sea turtles, using a figure-eight stroke that generated lift as well as forward motion. The long-necked forms were probably slower swimmers that ambushed fishes from below. They are now known to have possessed a sternum that may have allowed terrestrial excursions. Plesiosaur fossils are found continuously from the Middle Triassic (238 million years ago) to the end of the Cretaceous (65 million years ago), though there was a smaller extinction at the end of the Jurassic (144 million years ago) that resulted in a reduction in diversity. Ichthyologist Denys W. Tucker of the British Museum of Natural History advocated a plesiosaur explanation in 1960. Karl Shuker also favors this hypothesis, writing that it is not unreasonable to suppose that descendants of these Mesozoic marine reptiles adapted to a freshwater environment and a cold climate, developing different physical characteristics such as whiskers, hair, horns, and humps.
(13) A surviving basilosaurid type of archaic whale, suggested by Roy Mackal. Some basilosaurids were serpentine, grew up to 80 feet long, and lived in the Late Eocene, about 42 million years ago. They had tail flukes, but it's unknown whether they were used primarily for propulsion or for steering. These animals are mainly known from the southeastern United States and Egypt but may have been worldwide in distribution.
(14) An unknown species of large, long-necked otter was also proposed by Maurice Burton.
(15) The European otter (Lutra lutra) was favored as an explanation by Ronald Binns and by Maurice Burton in the 1980s. It has a dark brown, sleek body, usually 2—3 feet long, though larger specimens have been recorded. Its eyes are placed high on the head so that it can see when the rest of the body is below water. Otters are playful and often twist and turn on the surface.
(16) An unknown species of long-necked giant seal related to the marine LONGNECK hypothesized by Bernard Heuvelmans. First proposed by Antonie Cornelius Oudemans in 1934.
(17) A Killer whale (Orcinus orca) was suggested by Roy Chapman Andrews after seeing the 1934 surgeon's photo.
(18) A Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) was proposed by P. C. Grimshaw of the Royal Scottish Museum in 1933, though these white whales are not found in the North Atlantic. All modern whales have to surface for air and breathe regularly, which would be easily observable in the loch.
(19) A giant amphibian, advocated first by Malcolm Burr and Rupert T. Gould in 1934 and then by Roy Mackal in 1976. Mackal suggested a fossil eogyrinid, a member of a family of crocodile-like predators with eel-like tails that lived 300 million years ago, in the Carboniferous period. These freshwater anthracosaurs were as large as 15 feet long. They had weak limbs that may have looked like flippers.
(20) In 1966, Roy Mackal suggested an invertebrate, perhaps an unknown giant Sea slug (Superorder Opisthobranchia) adapted to freshwater, based on variations in Nessie's reported back contour.
(21) A giant form of the fossil (possibly segmented) oceanic invertebrate Tullimonstrum gregarium, found at Mazon Creek, Illinois, in 1958, which lived 300 million years ago, in the Carboniferous period. Its long proboscis (which contained jaws with several teeth) bears a slight similarity to the long neck and head of Nessie; however, its eyes were located elsewhere on the front part of the body. The animal was only 5—6 inches in length. Its tail had one dorsal and two horizontal fins, all triangular. Its taxonomy is uncertain, though some place it with the snails. This unlikely explanation for Nessie was promoted by F. W. Holiday in 1968.
(22) Water disturbances caused by small earthquakes along the Great Glen Fault were suggested by Italian geologist Luigi Piccardi in 2001.
(23) Other explanations include: a Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus); the trunk of an escaped circus Elephant (Elephas maximus); a Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus); World War I-era mines; an evil spirit (proposed by Donald Omand); a supernatural Dragon with links to unidentified flying objects (UFOs) (suggested by F. W. Holiday); and an alien pet left by space travelers (advocated by Erik Beckjord).
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